The Future of Bing Advertising: Thinking Digital 2016

Thinking Digital is an annual conference, taking place in Newcastle every May. Over the years, Thinking Digital has built a reputation for attracting the best thinkers and speakers from the around the world – The Next Web has even described it as ‘The UK’s answer to TED’.

On the agenda this year, were talks from the likes of Bill Jinks who gave a talk about what it means to be an IBM’s technical advisor to the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Mikko Hypponen who gave an entertaining talk on cyber wars and hacking and Ed Hipkins, a rhythmic creator, who spoke about the limitations that inspire creativity which he illustrated with a live and reactive performance on stage.

As a Paid Search Consultant, I was particularly keen to hear James Murray speak who is a Search Advertising Lead for Microsoft UK. I also managed to catch up with James during the conference and ask him a couple of questions on the future of search advertising. Here’s what he had to say:

Where does Bing stand now and what does the future look like?

“It’s a really exciting time to be working at Bing and there is so much that is happening, it’s difficult to know where to start.

I guess one of the key factors is our market share is growing rapidly in virtually every market that we are present in. For the UK, Bing now powers 18% of all searches so we are edging closer to 1 in every 5 searches coming from Bing which is amazing progress considering where we were even two years ago. A huge contributing factor to that growth has been the launch of Windows 10. The encouraging thing for us is that on average, Windows 10 users make around 30% more Bing searches than in previous versions of Windows.

The integration of Bing across the Microsoft ecosystem is also helping us to gain traction with consumers in new and exciting ways. Skype Translate, for example, is made possible through the power of Bing. So I can now speak to my Taiwanese mother-in-law in English and she will hear Mandarin, and she can speak back to me in Mandarin and I will hear English. Not so long ago this was science fiction but Bing has made this a reality. That might not be search in the way we traditionally think of it, but it’s search nevertheless that is enabling that experience.

From an advertising perspective, we are also trying to push the boat out with Bing Ads and that same idea of integration is an important one for us. The next opportunity that we’re excited about is native advertising. The idea is that you can take your existing search ads with image extensions and run those same campaigns in a native experience across the Microsoft display ecosystem.

Let’s say you’re managing the search campaigns for a big car brand. You could target the same search ads you run in Bing Ads to also show as native ads in the MSN Cars website; all with a simple tick of a box and no extra effort required on your behalf. We have started piloting this in the US with some great initial responses. Whilst there’s no immediate deadline for the UK, watch this space!

Overall, we believe that rather than viewing search as a destination, search will become invisible, and simply be pervasive wherever and whenever you need it. Regardless of what device or software you’re using, even if you’re not using a Microsoft product, we want Bing to be there to help you be more productive. Search is going to start integrating into more of the moments that matter to us and will power the experiences that we need to make our lives easier.

How does your view differ from Google?

“Google is phenomenal at what they do and I think it’s fair to say that we’ve been playing catch up with them for a number of years. We do feel though that Bing is coming of age, and the momentum behind us is fantastic. Creating a great search engine takes time and Bing has reached a stage of engine maturity that the difference between us and Google is now negligible. In some cases, we actually offer a better search experience than Google.

When we put consumers through blind tests most people can’t tell the difference between Google and Bing which is a testament to the improvement in the quality of our results. What’s exciting for me is that having reached a certain level of parity with Google we can now start to differentiate Bing with new products and functionality that aren’t simply an “us too” feature.

We’ve started doing this at Bing Ads with partnerships with companies like Twitter. The launch of Twitter annotations allows advertisers to show how many followers the brand has on Twitter, adding extra levels of credibility to your ads.

We’re also playing with new ad extensions that are going to give advertisers more options than ever before to customise their ads and make them stand out in the SERP. One recent example of this is image extensions which allow you to add high res images to your PPC ads. This is just one of many new extensions we are working on to push the frontier of paid search.”

Thanks, James!

I’m very excited about Bing’s new offerings and the future of paid search. The arguments that James made just make me feel even more comfortable about the future and prove my point that Bing is worth investing money and time in.

Pinterest opens up Promoted Pins for UK advertisers

In the last couple of weeks, visual bookmarking site, Pinterest, has opened up advertising to UK brands for the first time as it looks to monetise its growing user base and prove it can help brands drive up sales.

Advertising will be open to all brands in the UK and Ads will be sold on a cost-per-click basis or a cost-per-engagement basis and can be targeted based on demographics, interests or keywords. Marketers will also get access to data including impressions, engagement, click-throughs to a website and activity.

Pinterest also offers what it calls a “conversion pixel” which can help you understand how your Promoted Pins are performing and get a clear idea of what they are doing for your business. For example, you can add conversion tags to track activity based on the objectives of a campaign such as how Pinterest encourages newsletter sign ups or measure sales information on what pages people visit, what they put in their basket and purchase.

On speaking of the development, our Paid Search Consultant, Matt, said “As a brand new advertising platform Pinterest offers a wealth of opportunity for brands. Get in early and your ads will stand out and make a greater impact on people are yet to discover your brand.

The product is also king on Pinterest, so making your products and offering visible lends itself perfectly to the platform. Promoted Pins are just about one of the most native forms of advertising you can find on the web meaning that the content looks natural and doesn’t jar for the user. It’s also an interesting platform as it can tap into users who are in ‘planning’ mode and looking for inspiration for future purchases.”

We’ve already spotted a couple of home décor retailers such as Trouva and Loaf utilising Promoted Pins. The platform is perfect for them as home décor is one of the biggest categories of pins.

Made Promoted Pin                pin3

If you would like to find out more about your Pinterest strategy, please do get in touch.

Why you shouldn’t be ignoring Bing advertising

Back in February, Google removed paid search ads from the right-hand side of the search engine results page (SERPs) and gave this space to their Shopping Ads.

Previously, Google’s paid search ads were always displayed in the same format with three ads above organic search results and a number of ads down the right-hand side of the page. Google’s changes now mean there are now only 2-4 paid search results at the top and bottom of the SERPs and it’s becoming far harder to compete and appear at the top of the page because there are fewer ads appearing.

Seeing as it is becoming more difficult and competitive for advertisers to compete against competitors on Google, we have been looking into alternative options for our clients to invest in and see a strong ROI.

One of the channels we are currently focusing on is Bing.

The Leapfrogg Paid Engagement Team recently attended Marin Super Users event in London, where Javed Laher, Account Director at Bing presented the latest opportunities available to us.

Currently, 1.5 billion users use the Windows operating system every day and it’s estimated that 3 out of 4 PCs is a Windows PC. As Bing is the default search engine on Windows devices, it’s estimated that it’s powering 1 in 10 searches in the UK. In addition, Cortana and Siri (personal assistants on Windows and Apple phones) are also powered by Bing. Therefore, creating or maintaining a presence on Bing is becoming increasingly important.

We’ve been running Bing campaigns for a number of our clients and have seen some very positive results so far. On average, our clients spend approximately 10% of their Google spend on Bing, however, the return on investment is much higher than that. In some cases, we have seen an ROI of over £50.00 for some of our clients and there is still room for expansion and improvements.

In the last couple of months, Bing has launched Bing Shopping Ads after being in beta for some time.

We have been taking advantage of this opportunity and have been rolling out campaigns for a number of our clients. The principle of Bing Shopping campaigns is the same as Google Shopping campaigns – the ads showcase product specific information including an image of the product, text such as brand name and a product title, pricing, and promotions and your company name.

The main advantage we see with Bing Shopping is that early adopters will see less competition and cost-per-clicks (CPCs). Bing states that CPCs are 29% lower than non-brand text ads when compared to Google. This means that with the same spend as on Google, we can expect to receive more clicks, which should result in higher Return on Investment. According to Bing, the conversion rate for Bing Shopping campaigns is 49% higher than of the non-brand text ads. As we saw with Google Shopping when first launched, this state of lower competition won’t last forever as more competitors realise the opportunity they are missing!

And finally, Bing Shopping can strengthen your acquisition strategy by getting your brand in front of more new customers, as well as supplementing the traffic that you’re already getting from Google Shopping campaigns.

We are excited about Bing developments and are looking forward to having more data to measure and compare the results and revenue.

Google removes right-hand side paid search ads on SERPs

The big development this week came from Google who removed all paid search ads from the right-hand side of the search engine results page (SERP).

Previously, paid search ads were always displayed in the same format – three ads above organic search results and a number of ads down the right-hand side of the page.

Google’s changes now mean there are now 2-4 paid search results at the top and bottom of the SERPs – so depending on the search query, the entire above the fold space could now be filled entirely with paid advertising.

Solar Centre SERP

This means that for visibility within the SERPs, it’s even more important to be in positions 1-3 and top-of-the-page paid search ads will become even more competitive and expensive. On a positive note, we expect that search relevance will increase over time as the ROI on not relevant ads will become unsustainable due to increased cost-per-clicks. Brands that have a smaller click budget will see limited returns from more generic, head term and prospecting keywords that would previously generally be aimed at lower ad positions.

Google has been doing significant testing around site links, positions and ad text and this development shows how they are becoming increasingly focused on mobile as mobile searches beginning to overtake desktop searches. This change makes for a similar user experience across both desktop and mobile.

How will this impact paid search campaigns?

According to our Senior Paid Search Consultant, Matt Martin, “Ads seem to drop out of search results in favour of organic after just a few unsuccessful searches. This could increase click-through-rate and increase the effectiveness of time-sensitive messages. We have also seen an instant drop in impressions and return for non-brand and generic keywords.

What this means going forward is that we may need to move to longer-tail, less competitive keywords as those with larger budgets change strategies – presumably looking to own the generic space.”

“It may be that those with smaller budgets or more stringent targets now need to pick their battles more carefully for non-brand terms and more focus should be placed on driving better quality advertising going forward. It seems that we are moving towards a state where appearing in the perfect place in Google and at the perfect time can bring substantial returns but the risks are higher if you get it wrong. Owning your Brand space and having user-centric copy, relevant landing pages and a well-structured account becomes ever more important.”

For retailers, Shopping will become a crucial part of most revenue generating strategies. Therefore having a working, correct and optimised feed is more important than ever before in order to allow greater ownership of the space above the fold.

We’re also interested to see how this change affects Bing, as they have a great opportunity to capitalise on this change. Bing is becoming increasingly viable for marketers with the launch of Shopping – they just need to get the search and ecommerce volumes!

Natural search impact

In terms of natural search, our Website Optimisation Manager, Suze, said “The main impact of the having four paid search ads at the top of the SERPs will push organic listings down further in the page. Both for desktop and mobile, organic listings will now likely fall below the fold of the page.

This means that it’s even more important to ensure you have very targeted, useful content on your site to try and maximise top organic positions. It is also becoming more important for sites take full advantage of other ways to get organic visibility, for example: local listings, html markup to encourage rich snippets or knowledge graph cards etc.

By providing useful user-centric content on your site will help your site appear for more conversational, long-tail question-based queries that are less likely to be occupied with aggressive paid search ads. Brand building is also more crucial in order to drive people to search for less competitive brand related terms.

Please do feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about the impact of this change.

Five digital marketing must-haves for retailers

As consumer expectations continue to rise, there are a wealth of digital marketing tactics that were once a “nice to have” which have fast become “must-haves” in order to win and retain customers.

In this blog post, we have picked out the top five digital marketing must haves that all retailers selling online should have as part of their digital marketing mix.


1. Customer Personas

How can you market effectively to your customers if you don’t have a clear picture of who they actually are? There is a wealth of information that you should know about your customers that I have covered in many previous posts. No matter how much information or data you have about the people who buy from you, your marketing team must use that knowledge to formulate a set of customer personas.

A customer persona is a succinct profile of each type of customer that purchases from you. It should contain demographic information (e.g. age, gender, family, salary, location, education) as well as emotional intelligence such as their personal values, aspirations, shopping behaviours, buying drivers, media consumption, hobbies and lifestyle.

Mapping this information around a visual representation of the customer with a name will allow you to really bring your customers to life. This means you can start to engage with them on an increasingly emotional level, which in turn allows you to create far more engaging and focused marketing tactics. In fact, user personas have been found to make websites 2-5 more effective and easier to use by targeted users.

Customer personas in marketing have been around forever, but we are constantly surprised to find digital marketing teams who don’t have access to this type of insight on their customers, therefore missing a huge opportunity to focus their marketing more effectively. Having this insight is absolutely crucial as engaging content is becoming increasingly important as part of the digital marketing mix.

Customer Personas

2. Segmented email campaigns

Up until recently, a segmented or automated email program was deemed a “nice to have” for many retailers with the complex email strategies left to the larger retailers. Today, with the high level of personalisation expected by consumers, those retailers who are not carrying out any segmentation or personalisation of their emails will be losing a large amount of retained revenue and market share. According to HubSpot, personalised emails improve click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.

Make sure you have some form of welcome program for those who are signing up to receive email communication from you. Gather as much information as you can when they register to allow you to tailor your communications to them – even if it is only sending different emails to men and women.

Once the consumer has made a purchase, use the information you have about their purchases to personalise future communication with them. You could send them curated products they might like, inspirational content related to the category they have bought from, or sneak previews of new products within that category. The increase in conversion rates from a tailored email communications are huge, so make sure you are looking at how you can start segmentation as soon as possible.

Here is a great example of targeted email that I received recently from Missguided which led straight to a purchase.


3. A well-structured content plan

It is no longer enough to have different teams or individual people within your business producing content for your customers independently. A brand that delivers engaging content across all digital touchpoints can create a seamless experience for their customers that will aid both acquisition and retention. This cannot be achieved if there is not one central content plan for all teams adhere to.

A well-structured and successful content plan will contain the following:

  • Identified customer personas to engage with
  • A set of natural search terms to be woven into content
  • A central theme of content relevant to the customer and the brand
  • Channel by channel content creation around the central theme
  • Channel by channel content seeding and amplification
  • 3rd party content engagement elements (influencers, bloggers)
  • Week by week delivery and resource planning
  • A full set of financial and activity focussed KPIs

And most importantly – delegate a member of staff to own the plan and ensure everyone delivers their elements on time!

4. Google Shopping

If you sell products online and you do not have a Google Shopping feed or Product Listing Ads, then shame on you! Accordingly to research encompassing large-volume retailers, last year product listing ads drove 56% of non-brand clicks and 30% of overall Google search ad clicks.

Google Shopping results feature at the top of search results and are a key way to drive customers who are searching for particular products straight through to your product pages. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and images are processed 60,000 times faster than text, therefore if consumers process ads before anything else on the search results page, then you could be missing out on a high proportion of clicks if you do not have your products there.

Google Shopping

5. Rich Pins

Rich Pins are a very simple digital marketing tactic you can utilise in order to make the most of the fast growing Pinterest platform. Although product information on Pins has been around for a while now, the amount that retailers can do on this platform to generate commercial results has been growing rapidly in recent months.

By placing a small amount of code on your website means that any product that is pinned can be shown alongside relevant information such as stock availability and price. Pinners may also get notifications when prices drop by more than 10%.

Rich PinsThe increase of product information can lead to a much higher proportion of Pinterest users clicking through and purchasing. A recent study co-sponsored by the platform found that pins actually influence purchasing decisions. Over half the active Pinterest users surveyed said that the site helped them find items to buy. In addition, 32% said they purchased something in-store after viewing content on Pinterest.

Your competitors are probably doing it already! What are you waiting for?

The tactics above are by no means the only “must haves” within digital marketing, but are some of the most common tactics that we come across which are not being implemented by retailers.

Make time today to start just one!

How to amplify your content & updates from Twitter, Google and Facebook

Here’s our round-up of need-to-know social media & content news from the last few months and what it means for your digital marketing.

Savvy content marketers adopt a multi-channel approach to amplification

Content marketing has and always will be about creating useful, relevant content and targeting it at a carefully researched demographic. So far this year, I’ve noticed brands jumping on board with social media with gusto… unfortunately, there’s a heck of a lot of them jumping on board with zero strategy in place. With so much noise from brands and individuals, savvy content marketers need to be more strategic than ever if they’re going to get their content noticed.

Having a dual approach is crucial, blending highly useful, shareable onsite content to attract inbound links and mentions, while driving more relevant website traffic, with an outbound approach to get the attention of major publications and influencers. One often overlooked tactic to do this and a highly cost effective one, is the use of social PPC advertising to alert industry influencers and journalists about your content.

Whatever your brand, next time you have a piece of content you want to shout about, stop scraping the barrel for journalist contacts and put the news right in front of them. A great way to do this is to create Twitter lists of highly influential people and then target a Twitter ads campaign to appear directly in their newsfeeds. You’ll then have a measurable metric for the success of your content (clicks, retweets etc.) and furthermore, increase your chances of it being picked up and published.

Tied in content marketing, using a blend of promotional devices – and in this case focusing on the power of social PPC – instead of relying solely on more traditional journalist approaches (email, phone) to get your content featured, is my top tip for your next big campaign.

Google and Twitter partner up again

Google and Twitter reached an agreement for Google to start indexing tweets again after granting access to its Firehose. Firehose pings out over 9,000 tweets a second, meaning Google will always have access to the most up to date Twitter conversations to make Google searches even more relevant and the information thrown back to searchers, hyper-relevant and real-time.

If you were in any doubt as to the efficacy of Twitter as a marketing tool, this partnership – and with it the ability to get your tweets in front of both Twitter users and non-users – should convince you to step up your efforts on the platform and find your audience both in search and social.

Storytelling and tapping into emotion – the sure fire way to generate campaign engagement

Whether it’s marketers shaping the story, or the customer directly, storytelling in campaigns continue to be a strong tool for capturing your target audience’s attention.

Last month, we ran a campaign for our client, RocketSki, who – as the name suggests – provide fabulous ski holidays for corporates, groups and families.

The campaign – #TalesFromTheSlopes – asked RocketSki’s Facebook followers and lovers of skiing across Facebook (through Facebook advertising) to share their most breath-taking, funny or scary moments from the slopes and a picture of them in their best ski pose.

In collaboration with influential ski and snowboarding bloggers, the storytelling element of creative brought the campaign to life, as people flocked to the contest page to tell their #TalesFromTheSlopes. The winner, Claire Lomas, had an incredible story to tell. In 2007, Claire had a freak accident while competing at Osberton Horse Trials. This didn’t stop her though, as she turned her attention to mono skiing – essentially flying down the slopes in a specially crafted seat on skis. Her #TalesFromTheSlopes story attracted nearly 400 votes, making her the clear winner and a testament to the power of such an emotional journey – a story that captured the attention of all involved in the contest.

The campaign achieved great results for the client, including reengaging previous website visitors and converting new users into paying customers. Storytelling can be the catalyst not only for brand awareness and social media engagement, but as a genuine tool for driving sales and tangible return on investment.

Facebook continues to repress brand published organic content – less eyes on brand content

At time of writing – the last update from Facebook being on April 21st 2015 – titled ‘Balancing Content from Friends and Pages’ appears to lend itself to the following: “Dear brands, ‘If you were in any doubt, it’s time to use Facebook PPC to promote your brand message”.

Facebook is of course laser-focused on optimising content so that users’ eyeballs land on content that is relevant and interesting to them, so while organic posts are likely to see a further dip, it is still important for brands and the media to publish a rich variety of content. Whether it be videos, quizzes, thought provoking or humourous imagery, through to creative contests that reward followers for their support, brand pages will still play an important role in getting a return from social media efforts. Just don’t ignore the not so inconspicuous ‘paid social elephant in the room’… it’s time to up your social paid advertising budget if you really want to get your content seen.

We’re off to Berlin for the European Search Awards!

We had some great news last week as we found out our brilliant Paid Search Analyst, Joe Appleton, had been shortlisted for the European Search Awards in the Young Search Professional of the Year category.

Now in their fourth year, the European Search Awards celebrate the very best in SEO, PPC, Digital and Content Marketing within Europe. Last year, we won ‘Best Use of PR in a Search Campaign’ for our work with Wedding Rings Direct, and we are honoured to be recognised once again in these prestigious awards.

Joe has been with the company for over three years and in this time, he has grown from an intern into an expert in the field of paid search. He manages a wide range of paid search accounts across social, search and display for with a number of our clients including Cult Beauty, Lulu Guinness and MPB Photographic and works tirelessly to produce to best possible results for our clients.

The award ceremony takes place on 22nd April in Berlin and our Managing Director, Rosie, and Joe will both be heading out there for the event.

Good luck to all the brands and agencies shortlisted. See you in Berlin!

What we learnt in 2014 and what we look forward to in 2015

With 2015 well and truly upon us, I asked the Leapfrogg team to reflect upon what we have learnt over the last 12 months in the world digital marketing and premium retail and how we expect this year’s developments to evolve.

Here’s what they came up with:



Rosie FreshwaterRosie Freshwater – Managing Director

2015 will be the year of “Customer Experience”

Last year, customer experience still felt very much like a theory that everyone preached and understood that they needed to start doing. However, retailers were challenged to do anything about it as they felt there was so much to be done just to get to the point of best practice. Only then did they feel they were ready to start tweaking the experience they give to certain customers.

I believe that 2015 will be the year that customer experience really does get put at the heart of digital marketing teams and retailers work out how to do that and build a focus on customer insight and data into every job role within their marketing teams and wider across the business. We will start to see roles such as ‘head of customer experience’ appear and more and job descriptions will include the need to understand customer data.


Ben PotterBen Potter – Commercial Director

Customer insight is key

If pretty much any year from 2008 onwards was labelled ‘the year of mobile’, 2014 was very much about ‘customer experience’ with marketers at the turn of the year proclaiming it to be the most exciting opportunity.

However, customer experience is nothing new, there is just far greater attention being paid to it as a discipline in its own right because, in a consumer-led, multi-device world, a seamless and consistent experience is so difficult to deliver.

The ability to decide where to invest for maximum return, minimal waste and happy customers will separate the good from the great this year. This is where customer insight is key. It shouldn’t only be shaping the big decisions but the ‘smaller’ ones too. Even at the most granular of levels, every decision should begin and end with the customer.

I hope to see marketers take a step back and see the bigger picture in 2015. If 2014 was the year customer experience became as much a part of the vocabulary as SEO or social media, 2015 is the year when retailers need to really live and breathe it. It’s the year when every decision is made on the basis of what customers actually want rather than what the retailer thinks they want.


Suzanne TaylorSuzanne Taylor – Website optimisation manager

Focus on your wider strategy

In 2014 it felt like brands and retailers took further steps to root digital execution in their in-house teams. It’s hugely important that internal departments are all embracing and ingraining digital in their day-to-day marketing efforts as this will provide a long-term foundation for digital success.

This year, online brands and retailers really do need to focus on building their brands by engaging with their customers and providing unique experiences. Although different channels all have their part to play, it’s important that brands focus on the wider strategy to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards overall business objectives. Better segmentation and personalisation are likely to get more advanced in 2015.


Alice ReevesAlice Reeves – Social Media and Content Manager

Video will dominate further

This year, video is set to become even more important and brands not creating their own video content are going to lose out to competitors that are.

Video doesn’t just give you the chance to create compelling, easy-to-consume content about your products and services, it also performs exceptionally well on social media. According to figures released in September 2014, around a billion videos are viewed on Facebook every day. Consumers’ thirst for quality video content is only set to increase in 2015 and the social networks know it, that’s why they’re going to be investing in and pushing their own video hosting capabilities. Get on the bandwagon early.”

Social media strategies need to be engagement-focused AND include paid media

The biggest disruptions to the social media sphere in 2014 were the various updates to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm which suppressed organic reach for brand Pages. As a result, our clients across the board saw their organic reach (along with resulting website traffic and conversions) taking a dip. With the roll out of further updates beginning this month which will suppress “promotional content” from Pages, brands are going to need to divide their Facebook strategy into two distinct areas in order to see success on the platform:

• Paid promotional
• Organic engagement

It’s not just Facebook that’s making changes like this in the name of improving the user experience. Pinterest recently introduced its ‘Smart Feed’ which means that pins are no longer shown in chronological order – they’re assessed on the basis of quality and relevance to the user. There’s also been speculation around whether Twitter is going to abandon its chronological timeline and serve users tweets based on relevance instead. If you want to see success on any social media platform in 2015, your strategy is going to need to be wholly engagement-focused AND include an element of paid media.

Content strategies need to be altruistic, not self-indulgent.

My final prediction for 2015 is that brands that don’t focus on delivering what their customers want via their social media and content are going to fall behind. In-depth customer insight (we’re not talking ACORN profiles here) should be the starting point for any content strategy and maintaining genuine engagement with consumers is going to be how brands see success. Content marketing is going to be entirely about answering problems and adding value.


Ben AdamBen Adam – Senior website optimisation consultant

Backlink relevancy will still be a big win in terms of search quality

In 2014, Google found a way to ‘encourage’ webmasters to help them start clearing the web through Penguin and its regular updates – something they have been attempting to battle unsuccessfully for a number of years. Over the last year, in fear of action from Google, website owners have been trawling through historic ‘spammy’ links, requesting removal of them and supplying lists of websites in the form of disavow files, shopping these offending sites directly to Google.

Last year saw many predictions and outcries of links being dead. However they still remain a core factor in the way Google ranks search results and they have got much better at identifying manipulated links thanks to the webs clean up.

Google are yet to find a better approach. They even tested removing links internally but the resulting quality was much worse. Matt Cutts stated “It turns out backlinks, even though there’s some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results”. I would expect it to stay that way for some time.


Ben RobsonBen Robson – Senior social media and content consultant

Create content that has a purpose, rather than content for content’s sake.

2014 showed us that Google continues to place more and more emphasis on high quality content, rewarding businesses and brands who cater for online searches with content that is relevant and useful.

In 2015, I’m looking forward to seeing the trend develop further – helping our own clients position themselves as trusted sources of highly relevant, highly shareable content that attracts engagement from the right visitor demographic. I am also hoping 2015 is the year more brands recognise that adding to the growing amount of ‘content noise’ on social media (adopting a quantity vs. quality approach) is never the way forward. May 2015 be the year of content that has a purpose, rather than content for content’s sake.


AnnAnna Taylora Taylor – Sales and Marketing Executive

Customer-centric fulfilment

In 2015 the importance of free, speedy and flexible delivery and return options will continue to grow as ecommerce customers will start to expect this to be the norm. Gone will be the days of waiting weeks for deliveries and even months for your refunds. To compete, online retailers will need to provide an optimised online shopping experience and offer great deals on delivery and a fast turnaround time on all orders.

I think 2015 will also see personal and effective customer service becoming crucial in such a competitive retail landscape. We’ve seen many examples of retailers such as ASOS who may be pushing the boundaries in terms of innovation and expansion but they’ve come under recent criticism for their automated customer service processes. The fact that that 80% of UK consumers are less likely to buy again after one bad experience will mean that the retailers who can’t provide this will certainly fall behind

I think we will be seeing plenty to advances to online retail in 2015 but hopefully every single one will boil down to improving the customer experience.

So, what do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on our predictions so please feel free to leave a comment below.

Tis the season to start planning for Christmas

So it seems summer may very sadly be on its way out as we enter September. For retailers, this can only mean one thing – Christmas is well and truly on its way. Earlier in the month, Selfridges even opened their Christmas shop – making it the first retailer in the world to do so. You might not want to be purchasing your baubles just yet, but with Christmas being the busiest and most important time of the year for online retailers – it’s never too early for retailers to start planning for the festive season. Being prepared and identifying a strategy now can make or break a successful year for retailers – in other words the difference between a lump of coal or the latest gadget from Apple in your stocking!

With only 115 days until the big day, we’re already hard at work planning for Christmas with our clients. In light of this, I thought it was worth sharing a couple of tips and tactics from the Leapfrogg team to help get you started.

What do your customers want?

Rosie, Leapfrogg’s Managing Director, recommends running a survey and asking your customers what they think they will want to buy from you at Christmas. You can ask them if they are likely to shop with you for Christmas gifts this year and if so, what categories, price points and people they will be shopping for.

It may well be too late for this insight to influence your product range for Christmas, but what this will do is give you a good steer on where to spend your marketing budget. If you know that your older customers are likely to buy a certain product from you in store, then make sure you remind them via email to pop in store as Christmas approaches. If you know that your younger customers are likely to buy a particular product from you online, then ensure you promote that product to them via all online channels in the run up to Christmas. A quick survey via email with an incentive for completion is an easy way to do this.

You could even go one step further and ask your customers to help you develop a new product for Christmas. If it isn’t too late and your products are applicable, then use social media to showcase a few product ideas or ask your customers to submit ideas for voting that you will be able to put into limited edition production. A loyal fan base will be very engaged with the process and will be likely to buy the product and others when it is released.

Can you offer free delivery?

If you can, offer free delivery – your investment really will pay off and may make the difference in a customer choosing to order with you rather than one of your competitors. A customer experience design project we ran for one of our clients revealed that a major barrier to conversion was a relatively high delivery charge on a low average order value. By offering free delivery, they increased online revenue by 20% within eight weeks.

Be clear and simple

Ensure all your delivery messaging is clearly displayed on your website across all pages, as well as your last online order dates for pre-Christmas delivery to ensure there are no nasty surprises for your customers and their expectations can be met at all times.


House of Fraser Christmas

Image source: Econsultancy

In addition, ensure that your returns policy is also clearly displayed across your website– especially if you are offering extended returns over this period.


asos Christmas Delivery

Image source: ASOS

Have a look at what questions you were asked last year and ensure your FAQs are up to date with the answers to those questions. Doing this will make life easier for your customers, and remove the need for them to contact you for questions that can be easily answered.

Also spend some time making sure that your product information is as detailed as possible. It’s worth bulking these out now, so your product pages contain as much information about the products as you can, again, making life easier for your customers.

Concentrate on improving your basket and checkout pages now to ensure you have a well converting process in time for Christmas. Maybe run some user-testing to check it’s as user-friendly as possible, and if you don’t already, offer guest checkout and consider a one page checkout.


Macy's one page checkout

Image source: Econsultancy

Be mobile responsive

We all know the importance of having a mobile-optimised website by now. If you don’t have one yet, definitely make this a priority as soon as possible as mobile searches increase over the festive period as more shoppers use their phones whilst on the high street to research products. According to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, last Christmas, mobile traffic grew to 58% of all online traffic, an increase of 42% over 2012 and we can only expect this figure to rise even more this Christmas.


John Lewis mobile website

If you do already have a mobile website, take some time to ensure it provides a seamless purchasing journey for your customers.

Content planning

Ben, our senior and social media content consultant suggests preparing a content schedule that includes relevant seasonal content such as tips, videos and blog posts. Rather than just pushing products, try and tap into your customers’ needs and help solve their stressful shopping problems. This type of content will help ramp up your audience in the run up Christmas and you can link in an association of how your products can fit into Christmas preparations. Ensure that this messaging is published in a steady flow throughout the Christmas period.

Generate Christmas discounts as a special reward for your social followers, which will make them feel special and like they are getting a bargain before the New Year’s sales. This can aid revenue flow and attract any buyers that usually wait until the sale period to purchase.

Offering competitions and promotions around the 12 days of Christmas are always a winner as they encourage people to keep coming back to your website and making purchases throughout the Christmas period. The Whistles annual advent calendar is a great example of this.

Think in advance about tying in in-store services with ways to boost social following and brand loyalty. For example, offering a free gift wrapping service to customers could be tied in with a data capture exercise to capture customer email addresses and dates of birth in reward for the free gift wrap. This data can then be used to target customers through email marketing and also through custom audiences advertising on Facebook.
Create any new pages well in advance of Christmas

Our senior natural search consultant, Ben and website optimisation manager, Suze, both recommend keeping your Christmas landing pages/categories the same year to year. This ensures Google keeps them in its index and all trust associated with those pages remains. You can always hide the URLs from the customer visible sitemap, but maintain them in the XML sitemap.
If you need to create new pages or categories, ensure you create them well in advance of Christmas to allow Google to index and begin to assign trust to the new pages. Again, link in from the XML sitemap, and if you don’t have your Christmas range confirmed yet – create a holding page for them. You could always include an email signup form on this page, so keen customers can find the page and register interest before you have the range finalised.

Paid search recommendations

Our paid search analysts, Joe and Andy, have a number of recommendations for planning paid search campaigns for the festive season:

  • Have a solid marketing plan in place, so you know exactly what promotions will be running and how they will be promoted e.g. which channel, paid search feature, and site/ad language and also the budgets available for each period building up to Christmas and after Christmas.
  • Look back at which promotions have worked best in the past and test again e.g. a flash sale, free P&P or exclusive discounts.
  • Plan paid search budgets to anticipate shifts in search volume such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Take a look at your historical data for this to see which days last year were popular and plan accordingly.
  • Upload all new ad creatives well in advance of their launch to ensure they are reviewed and approved before your campaign starts – this includes text and image ads.
  • Migrate any changes made in Google across to Bing Ads to ensure consistency and more visibility for your ads.
  • Make sure product feeds are fully optimised for Google Shopping. New feed requirements are coming into effect by the 30th September, so ensure you’re ready for this change now so you don’t run into any problems in build up to Christmas. Google Shopping will be a key channel for retailers this Christmas.

So there you have it – a few tips from the Leapfrogg team on how you can start preparing for the festive season. With only 115 days to go, the time is definitely ripe to start getting into the Christmas spirit and planning ahead. By doing so now, you’ll definitely be in a better position this festive season.


The Weekly Shop (18th – 22nd Aug)

In the Weekly Shop this week, we explore how poor service is eroding consumer loyalty and confidence in retail brands, shop dummies coming to life, social loyalty and Google adds Website call conversions in Adwords.

New study: poor service is eroding loyalty to retail brands

A new study has found that poor service is eroding consumer loyalty and confidence in retail brands. A poll of 2,000 consumers found that poor service is eroding consumer loyalty and confidence in retail brands. Accordingly to the survey 30% of those surveyed had become less loyal to retail brands in the past five years. In addition, a quarter of those customers identified poor service as the main reason for their declining loyalty.

Mobile takes 38% of all paid search clicks in the UK, the highest on record

Another new study this week has found that in the UK, adverts shown on mobile devices accounted for more than a third (36%) of all paid search spend in Q2 2014, which is the highest on record. In turn, the UK also witnessed the highest proportion of clicks coming through mobile ads – 38% of all paid search clicks during the quarter. More over on Internet Retailing.

Shop dummies come to life to tell smartphones what they are wearing

Reminiscent of something out of Dr Who – shop mannequins may now be coming to life thanks to i-beacon technology. Beacon company Iconeme has installed Bluetooth beacons in shop mannequins, which allow Bluetooth enabled shoppers to receive information about the clothes being worn (by the mannequins) when they walk past whilst harvesting data about the consumers.

How to increase conversions by creating buyer urgency & fear of loss

This article from Econsultancy rounds up 11 examples from ecommerce sites that use stock levels to create buyer urgency. A sense of urgency and fear of loss are powerful sales drivers in ecommerce. Undecided shoppers can be encouraged to make an impulse purchase if they think they’re in direct competition with other people for a product that has limited availability.

Social loyalty: the new faces of customer relationships

This next article from The Retail Bulletin explores social marketing and how it can be used a powerful platform to spread word of mouth and opinions between and among customers.

Google Launches Ability To Track “Website Call Conversions” In AdWords

Earlier in the week, Google launched a new feature in Adwords which allows advertisers to track calls that occur after a user arrives on a web site from an ad click.